After an honest listen to Rapsody’s stellar album, Laila’s Wisdom, you’re liable to be overcome with a mind-altering spiritual experience. The feminist MC’s second studio LP is loaded with grams of self-reflecting and sagacious gems that moves one to ponder their purpose on earth. Using her keen moral compass, the North Carolina native dished out entrées of lessons that are reminiscent of the wise, church-going grandmother or dapper pastor heartily preach-rhyming words of God to his hungry congregation.
Unlike many a fervent disciples we might know, however, the 34-year-old wordsmith isn’t chiding, judgmental or unforgiving. Nor is she boastful; the Jamla artist rather encourages listeners to up the ante on their ethics and responsibilities, and seek the road maps to the metaphysical world as opposed to succumbing to fleeting tangibles.
The 14-track project commences with the brooding choir-led and church organ, foot-stomping instrumental laid down by Grammy-nominated producer Nottz. Here, the “Godzilla” rapper sparks positive vibes with lines like, “Look don’t worry bout anything they told you/Remember what she said about winter and what the cold do/Everything’s a season and some things you gotta go through.”
Equally moving is the non-material record “Power” featuring Kendrick Lamar and Lance Skiiiwalker, where the the rapper, born Marlanna Evans, waxes poetically about her forceful God and how She blesses her with mental and spiritual strength.
Themes of love, self-respect, healthy companionship run the gamut of Laila’s Wisdom before ending with the somber tear-jerking track “Jesus Coming.” Here, Rapsody tells three emotional stories of a young girl, presumably a teenager and two military soldiers who are all senselessly murdered.
Whether one prays to Jesus, God, Allah, Jah or Jehovah, places of worship have played a major role in the black community. Members of the House of God have labored by organizing to fight racism, poverty, and even rallying voters during political campaigns. Inspired by Rapsody’s latest offering, VIBE complied a list of some important and very informative books on the history of the black church.
1: Black Church Beginnings: The Long-Hidden Realities of the First Years
Author: Henry Mitchell
Black Church Beginnings traces the growth of the black church from its start in the mid-1700s to the end of the 19th century. Dr. Mitchell shows how early African American churches did more than preach to their congregation. Black churches organized, and put in strenuous man-hours to create a potent space of faith for black peoples. Filled with insight, Mitchell shows the struggles of locating knowledgable pastors, to class structure inside churches as well as the obstacles created with the forming of novice denominations.
2: Fortress Introduction to Black Church History
Author: Ann H. Pinn
Readers are introduced to different denominations as well as the development of African American churches from the 18th century on through the Civil Rights Movement.
3: The Divided Mind of the Black Church: Theology, Piety, and Public Witness (Religion, Race, and Ethnicity)
Author: Raphael G. Warnock
In The Divided Mind of the Black Church, Raphael G. Warnock, who is Senior Pastor of the prestigeoius Ebenezer Baptist Church (The church of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) guides readers through the rise and development of black theology. Warnock concludes by suggestion an honest conversation between black women, theologians and black pastors.
4: The Burden of Black Religion
Author: Curtis J. Evans
Starting from the antebellum period leading to the 20th century, Curtis Evans discusses how interpretations of black religion have shaped views of African Americans, and how these ideas shaped the lives of many black peoples.
5: Homophobia in the Black Church: How Faith, Politics, and Fear Divide the Black Community
Author: Anthony Stanford
Here, Stanford examines how faith, politics and fear exacerbates the homophobic mindset within the black church as well as the African American community at large.
6: Mighty like a River: The Black Church and Social Reform
Author: Andrew Billingsley
Prof. Andrew Billingsley looks at several churches across the U.S. and explores how black churches have fought political, social and economic issues affecting various black communities. Billingsely also looks at how black churches confront issues such as family dysfunctions, care for elderly, AIDS and other issues.
7: Plantation Church: How African American Religion Was Born in Caribbean Slavery
Author: Noel Leo Erskine
Noel Leo Erskine investigates the history of the Black Church as it developed both in the United States and the Caribbean after the arrival of enslaved Africans. Erskine argues that the black religious experience was born in the Caribbean – being that this is where a majority of the African slaves were brought to. According to Erskine, the Afro-Caribbean slaves established a form of Christianity that preserved the practices of the African gods while combining them with teachings of Christianity.